You’ve heard the haters all decade long. “Barcelona owns La Liga.” or “Your team only won 2 of the last 10 Liga titles.” Seasons prior, media coverage was obsessively critical on a weekly basis despite periodic spells of Champions League magic. The domestic shortfalls feed the social media beast while European success is tragically passed over. However, after winning at Osasuna 1 - 4 this past Sunday, Real Madrid is closer to their 34th Liga title than you realize. Let’s look at the remaining La Liga calendar below:
vs Celta Vigo
at Real Betis
Right away, the highest-ranked teams remaining on the Liga schedule are Barcelona (2nd), Getafe (3rd), and Real Sociedad (6th) while the other 12 are middle to bottom-of-the-table teams. Thus, Real Madrid have the advantage of executing a familiar winning strategy against these teams again. However, before we can hypothetically add 45 points to their current tally of 52 and crown them champions, here’s the wild card factor we must consider:
The quest for a record 14th Champions League title is back in gear and will take precedence. It could affect the lineup decisions, player stamina, and mental capacity for a team that has already played almost a full league season (34 games). The first real test to mark whether the team can handle the Champions League playoffs while gunning for La Liga will be against Manchester City on February 26. The two Liga games that surround this fixture are at Levante and vs Barcelona. If Real Madrid wins both Liga games, it will put them six points clear and send a psychological blow to their eternal rivals. If the team advances further in Champions League, Zinedine Zidane will need to tighten his rotations and the top eight starters will need to dig in more as their minutes will significantly increase into the spring.
This isn’t new to Zinedine Zidane. Only three seasons ago, Real Madrid won the 33rd Liga title and the 12th Champions League title in Cardiff. Fast forward to today, the team just completed a 21-game unbeaten streak that started before Halloween and sadly ended at home against Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals last Thursday. Setting the road to Istanbul aside, Real Madrid have a softer domestic schedule towards the end than in prior seasons and the squad has a great balance of experience and youth to deal with these remaining 14 weeks. The most successful La Liga champion has the pole position, and if other teams want to surpass Real Madrid, they will have to pry it from captain Sergio Ramos’ cold dead hands.
- Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)